Why Being Alone Can Make Your Family Closer

With the rising mound of dirty laundry that must be done, lunches that have to be made, stories that our kids want read, and boo-boos that we need to kiss, it often feels that getting alone time is an indulgence parents cannot possibly afford.

While we mark our days by the number of items ticked off on our to-do lists, we often fail to realize that our fuel tanks are depleted until we spark at a child or spouse, or simply find ourselves wrecked by an overwhelming exhaustion that cannot compare to anything we ever felt pre-children.

I, for one, could not survive without my nightly ritual of taking ten minutes in the bathtub. All. By. Myself. I was dismayed, therefore, to read a New Yorker article about how the bathtub is a refuge for overwhelmed women:

Getting into the tub seems like a surrender to the idea that women can’t really make it on land.

So now I have to feel guilty about my baths, too?

This despite the fact that a study by ForbesWomen found that more than 90% of all moms said they need more time to themselves. And, of course, not everyone has the same ability to tolerate a crowd–even if that crowd is your family who you love.

In a Huffington Post article titled No Guilt Allowed! Why Parents Need Time for Themselves, Susan Cain points out that introverted parents especially need to find more alone time in order to parent well. She writes:

If you as an introvert hold yourself up to the standard set by our attachment-focused culture, you might end up feeling that something is wrong with you, that you don’t love your kids as much as you should, or that you’re somehow failing at parenting. You’re not.

Why do so many parents fail to schedule regular alone time the same way we schedule Music Together classes, or a nightly bath for pumpkin? Many a mama (and even a papa) feels that if we leave the kids with our partner, a grandparent, or babysitter, holy hell will break loose: The baby won’t get the bottle or the formula won’t be warmed properly, or maybe it will overheat and burn the little one’s mouth!

We imagine disaster stands between us and our ability to walk around the block for ten minutes of restorative fresh air. But would you risk testing your theory just once to see if your child survives? Would you do it if it would make you a better, happier parent?

Parents don’t only need alone time all by themselves, but if partnered, with their significant other and without the kids. A Time Magazine article titled How Being Good Parents Can Make You a Lousy Couple says this:

Alone time doesn’t guarantee a great marriage. But, according to a 2012 study from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, couples who spend more one-on-one time together are less prone to divorce and report higher levels of sexual satisfaction, communication and commitment.

And guess who else benefits from more space in the family? The kids! Check out this illuminating Ted Talk from Melissa Anderson Sweazy titled “If You Love Them, Let Them Go.” In it, Sweazy discusses the fact that most eight-year-olds today are allowed to roam an average of 360 yards from home. A hundred years ago, many kids could wander 6 miles without their parents giving it a second thought!  But the freedom to roam begins with a mindset that is in place well before children turn eight.

Could less helicopter parenting be beneficial to everyone? What do our kids lose when we keep them under such close watch? One thing is certain: Happy parents provide plenty of room for everyone in the family–including themselves–to flourish and recharge. #Happyparents


The Bath: A Polemic

No Guilt Allowed! Why Parents Need Time for Themselves

The National Marriage Project – Date Night

How Being Good Parents Can Make You a Lousy Couple

Shana Burg